The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

9

The Edmund Fitzgerald Remembered

40 years ago, on November 10, 1975, the cargo ship Edmund Fitzgerald sank during a storm in Lake Superior near Whitefish Point off the coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There are several theories as to what may have caused the ship to sink in a flash, but the actual reason will likely never be known. The remains of the 29 crew members were never recovered.

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Does anyone know where the love of God goes

when the waves turn the minutes to hours?

On November 10th 1975 the 729 foot long ore carrier Edmond Fitzgerald went down in a hurricane like storm that had 80 mph winds and 25 foot waves with rouge waves as high as 35 feet. Battered by the storm the Fitzgerald was trying to reach the safety of Whitefish Bay. 

The last message from the Fitzgerald was from the captain who radioed, “We are holding our own.” Minutes later the Fitzgerald vanished from radar. No distress call was given. She was only 17 miles from Whitefish Bay. Now she lies 530 feet down at the bottom of Lake Superior along with her crew of 29.

Enjoy this wonderfully touching story song, The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, by Gordon Lightfoot (1976)

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumme

Superior, they said, never gives up her dead

When the gales of November come early.

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
  • The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
  • Gordon Lightfoot
  • Summertime Dream
Play

Gordon Lightfoot — “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
From the album Summertime Dream.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
of the big lake they called “Gitche Gumee.”
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
when the skies of November turn gloomy.
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand times more
than the Edmund Fitzgerald weigh empty,
that good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed
when the “Gales of November” came early.

Hell. Fucking. Yeah.

More music.

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
  • The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
  • Gordon Lightfoot
  • Summertime Dream
Play

gordon lightfoot, “the wreck of the edmund fitzgerald”

the lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
when the skies of november turn gloomy
with a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
than the edmund fitzgerald weighed empty.
that good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed
when the gales of november came early.

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“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Rheostatics (Gordon Lightfoot cover)

Oddly, Rheostatics did a fairly surreal/avante-garde cover of the classic on an album named Melville

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Does anyone know where the love of god goes…

“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot

When supper time came, the old cook came on deck sayin’
Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya
At 7 P.M. a main hatchway caved in, he said
Fellas, it’s been good to know ya

It occurred to me the other day that Canadian music is filled with songs of the sea, some good, some tragic. Modern versions all trace back to Gordon Lightfoot.

The Legend Lives On from the Chippewa on down, on the big lake they called Gitchie Gumie…
— 

Gordon Lightfoot, 1976

“The lake it is said never gives up her dead when the skies of November turn gloomy”

40 years ago to this day, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald vanished while weathering a strong storm on Lake Superior- with the loss of all her 29 crew. Several theories have been put forth to her sinking, but not a single crew member was ever found. Superior has yet to give up her dead.

RIP Captain McSorely, and all his crew.

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All that remains
Are the faces and names
Of the wives and the sons
And the daughters. 

2

November 10

On this date in 1975 came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Gordon Lightfoot wrote his iconic song almost immediately, it seems, and by the first anniversary of the tragedy, the song had reached number 2 on the Billboard singles charts.

Best disaster song ever, hands down, which makes me think I ought to come up with a list:

1. “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” - Gordon Lightfoot
  29 died when a bulk freighter–“bigger than most”–sank on Lake Superior.

2. “New York Mining Disaster, 1941” - The Bee Gees
  The New York Incline Mine accident took place in New York in 1939, and not 1941, but the Brothers Gibb took their primary inspiration from 1966’s Aberfan disaster in Wales, when 144 people died after the collapse of a large pile of waste rock.

3. “Louisiana 1927” - Randy Newman
  246 people were killed and 700,000 left homeless in the Great Mississippi Flood of the year named in the song title. It was the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States.

4. “When The Levee Breaks” - Led Zeppelin
  Memphis Minnie’s original was released in 1929, and it’s pretty clear that she was referencing the same river flood that Newman later turned to. Have I just said that “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is a better song than “When The Levee Breaks?” Well, I guess I have.

5. “The Wreck of the Old 97” -
  The country music standard (which has a thousand versions, and I can definitely recommend Hank III’s) was based on a railroad derailing that took place in 1903, near Danville, Virginia. 11 of the 18 men onboard men died. Not sure whether one of them was “scalded to death by the steam,” or not.

6. “Titanic” - Leadbelly
   The detail Mr. Ledbetter includes about Jack Johnson being denied passage on the doomed ship was entirely fictional.